Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SFC's Conservation Education Program at Kpg Kuala Sibuti

Some of our young audience at Kpg Kuala Sibuti, photograph by Nazeri Abghani.

We signed up for a Kpg Kuala Sibuti Community Education Program (CEP) with SFC Miri Regional staff from Sibuti Wildlife Sanctuary, the date in question was 05th May with the program starting just after Isya’ prayers, way past bedtime for some of us.

This is a part of a comprehensive program by SFC Miri whose audience was meant to be local community members living close or around a national park or reserve, in this case our target audience was fisher folks of Kpg Kuala Sibuti. Through a platform already well established by SFC, MNS Miri Branch hopes to achieve our own objectives of raising the awareness amongst rural community members.

Depending on the time allocated, we planned to give a talk on “Firefly in Miri”, “Dolphins in Miri” and “Waders in Miri”.

The SFC contingent consisting of member of staff from the various national parks of the northern region finally arrived at the agreed meeting point at 7:40pm and we moved out together in a convoy shortly after. During our wait, other than feeding the few rogue mosquitoes, we managed to collect a firefly specimen by the roadside. This will further add to the collection we already have for identification at a later date.

On the way to Kpg Kuala Sibuti, we made quick stops along the road to check out known firefly sites. There weren’t any significant displays taking place on any of the trees by the road. We saw only approximately 20 individuals on 2 display trees.

At the village multi-purpose hall, our arrival were greeted by Ketua Kaum Saini; the Imam, Pak Wasli and several village elders. All the young men were busy barbeque fresh fish, bounty of the sea brought in earlier. Kpg Kuala Sibuti lies at Sg Sibuti estuary, gateway to one of the most fertile fishing ground in the area. We were assured that they were not in short supply of good, fresh fish for the fire.

Ketua Kaum Saini confirming an item with Remli Adenan, PIC of SWS.

The awareness program started with Remli Adenan, PIC Sibuti Wildlife Sanctuary giving a presentation on Sibuti Wildlife Sanctuary and it’s role in the schemes on things.

Remli was the first to take up the mike at the conclusion of a short ceremonial doa by Imam Wasli. Remli covered the formation of SWS, it’s purpose of existence, laws and regulations stipulated to protect the park as well as summarised the value of the flora and fauna protected under the Sanctuary bylaws. Concepts of the Sanctuary were briefly covered.

It’s sometime hard for the local people to understand the reasons behind the setting up protected areas and the like. Having been relying on their immediate surroundings for their day to day resource for generations, sometimes becomes daunting for the local folks when suddenly they are told that they are no longer allowed to collect and gather these resources within the sanctuary or protected area system. Sessions like this gave them an opportunity to ask pertinent questions or justifications for establishments of sanctuaries or parks.

The audience was surprisingly enthralled by Musa Musbah’s short presentation on “Fireflies in Miri and surroundings”. Though the villagers and children were familiar with kunang-kunang, kelip-kelip or “local name”; they have not seen the creatures up close as close as Musa had presented it. They were shown the fireflies from larvae to adulthood.

Fireflies’ link to a healthy riverine system were driven home when they were shown the statistics of fireflies which have been collected over diverse areas withing Miri. Potential to use fireflies to generate tourism income was briefly covered. The folks were shown close-up pictures of some the yet un-named species collected in Miri and nearby rivers.

Dr Gianna updated the the audience on the progress of Project Dolphin Sarawak. They were informed of the most recent findings of several surveys that was carried out in Kuching, Kuala Nyalau and Similajau. When pictures of the dolphins were flashed up, they were familiar knowing smiles form the floor. Most folks being fishermen, they were nota stranger to the subject.

Dr Gianna implored the villagers to share information relating to dolphins in the area. The villagers were assured that they will NOT be implicated in any incidence of dead dolphins caught in their fishing net. They were assured of gratitude when reports of dolphin sighting are sent in, they are in fact helping us better understand these mammals. The warm reception by the villagers on the topic may warrant a more comprehensive dolphin sessions with fishermen of Kpg Kuala Sibuti at a later date.

Our first involvement with CEP by SFC wasn’t as positive as the program we just concluded at Kpg Kuala Sibuti. Though from first impression they were not as many young people attending, the continued presence of the village elders amplified commitment on the villagers part to hear what the organisers were saying.

Throughout the nite, we saw more and more young people trickling into the multi-purpose hall. With a close-knit community like this buy-in from respected village elders seems a great shoe-in for the success of the program. Towards the end of the presentations, speakers and organisers mingled with the villagers. Several elders pointedly asked when are we coming back to do similar programs, and they wanted it done on a regular basis. If that wasn’t “we are happy to hear what you have to say”, I don’t know what "buy-in" is.

These inroads into reaching out to the community should be explored further and should be taken advantage of fully by the bodies in SFC, MNS Miri or any other bodies trying to get the conservation message out to the grassroots. How better to reach the folks than to go to them and explain your story. Better than them getting it via hear-say and unfounded rumours. Definitely better than to leave them in the dark.

Community is our best ally in conservation. Too many time we forget about the common people elements that could make conservation efforts work to our advantage.

The program at Kpg Kuala Sibuti ended just before midnite, not after a scrumptious long table spread of the freshest ikan panggang, sweet hot tea and sago bites. Kpg Kuala Sibuti is indeed one place where work on conservation awareness felt fully appreciated and warmly received.

The big ikan panggang feast, freshest catch!

We have a feeling we’d be back for Part II Community Education Program very soon. An entourage entering the Sg Sibuti could be fun.

MNS Miri Branch would like thank SFC Miri Regional Office, it's TPA Unit, it's CEP Unit and Sibuti Wildlife Sanctuary for an opportunity to work with them in this CEP effort.

Musa Musbah/MNS Miri/May 2010

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